Telemark skiing and snow science

After plenty of practice on campus and on local ski areas, the group starts at the trailhead at Ski Cooper and skins up 2.5 miles to Vance’s Cabin, a backcountry hut operated by the Tenth Mountain Trail Association. This is the second in the series of winter hut trips for Fourth, Fifth, and Seventh Grades. The school has skis, poles, climbing skins, and backpacks to outfit the entire class.

The cabin is tucked into the forest near a rolling meadow; our route is chosen because it does not cross any avalanche terrain. After orienting ourselves to the hut and covering some basic backcountry skills (melting snow for drinking water, chopping firewood), we prepare dinner and settle in for the evening. At least one evening we will go out for a night ski, and during the day we go for a ski tour nearby to learn about snow science, practice our telemark turns, and enjoy lunch outside. We all work together to prepare dinners and breakfasts. On the final morning, we wake up early to pack up before heading back to the trailhead.

Route-finding is an important backcountry skill that Aspen Country Day School children learn over the years on their outdoor education trips. When they are younger, this is as simple as asking them to predict where the trail might go. As they grow older, they learn to use topographic maps to plot a safe and efficient route. Above, working on maps at Vance’s Cabin.

Sample winter hut trip packing list

EQUIPMENT

  • Skis, poles and boots (provided by school)
  • Helmet (required)
  • Trip backpack (your own of the correct size, or one provided by school)
  • Day pack (lightweight and compressible)
  • Sleeping bag: warm, lightweight, compact

CLOTHING

  • Ski jacket, ski pants
  • Warm pants for inside the hut
  • Sweater or zip fleece
  • Shirt (no cotton)
  • Warm socks/extra pair (no cotton)
  • Long underwear (top and bottom, no cotton)
  • Warm hat, neck gaiter
  • 1 pair warm ski mittens or gloves (in case 1 gets wet)
  • Brimmed cap to wear during uphill ski tours
  • Hand-warming or toe-warming packets (optional)
  • Glove liners (optional)
  • PERSONAL EQUIPMENT

    • Booties (light weight hut shoes)
    • Toothbrush & toothpaste
    • Headlamp or flashlight (small + light)
    • Sunglasses
    • Goggles
    • 2 Water bottles (full) – wide mouth
    • Sunscreen
    • Lip protection with SPF

    FOOD

    • Snacks for 3 days
    • Lunch for 1 day

    Complete instructions, packing lists, and staffing details arrive via ParentSquare shortly before each trip. At least one certified Wilderness First Responder accompanies every expedition. NOLS Risk Services of the National Outdoor Leadership School has recently completed a comprehensive analysis of policies and procedures for the Outdoor Education program at Aspen Country Day School. This program operates under special use permit from the USDA Forest Service, White River National Forest.